Following this cluster of illness and deaths in and around Bas-Uele, on May 5, 2017, the provincial health team began a hemorrhagic fever outbreak investigation which was confirmed after tests at the Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa. After tests confirmed the presence of the Ebola virus, on May 11, 2017, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo publically declared the eighth Ebola outbreak in the DRC.
Given the DRC’s experience in managing past Ebola outbreaks, the U.S. government response provided through CDC and USAID focused on supporting the following MOH immediate priorities:
- Preventing deaths in health facilities by distributing protective equipment for health workers and providing clinical training;
- Preventing deaths in communities by urging ill persons to seek care quickly;
- Preventing disease spread by promoting handwashing, proper sewage disposal, and safe burials;
- Supporting laboratory testing to rapidly identify and treat cases;
- Conducting field investigations to define risk factors and guide prevention strategies; and
- Supporting contact monitoring to track the spread of the disease
Coordination of Response
CDC’s Office in Kinshasa coordinated CDC’s response to the outbreak, in collaboration with its Emergency Operations Center as well as the Global Diseases Detection Center in Atlanta, Georgia. CDC staff involved included, medical officers, epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, environmental health specialists, communication specialists, public health advisors, planners, information technology specialists, and support staff. USAID’s response was coordinated through its Global Health Security Agenda and Emerging Pandemic Threats offices and its resident public health officers in the DRC. Among those involved were Health Officers, Infectious Disease Advisors, and Emerging Pandemic Threats Advisors.
The CDC Resident Advisor and a CDC epidemiologist served as members of the surveillance committee to help coordinate and operationalize the Ebola response deploying two (2) epidemiologists from CDC headquarters in Atlanta to assist on data utilization, laboratory management, and other aspects of the response. USAID support permitted the INRB to perform initial confirmatory testing and helped to ensure that the necessary lab equipment and supplies were available to the MOH.
Within days of the declared outbreak, the U.S. government mobilized resources to support the response effort. Working with its DRC implementing partners, CDC provided logistical, financial and technical support to the response by deploying Field Epidemiology Training Program graduates to the epicenter of the outbreak in the Likati health zone to provide technical assistance on surveillance, case investigation and contact tracing, clinical care, and information/communication.
USAID mobilized laboratory reagents and equipment including a mobile laboratory capable of performing Ebola virus and antibody detection, as well as screening of other pathogens, which expedited test results dramatically and allowed for more immediate treatment and response. The total U.S. Government contribution to the Ebola response and containment effort was approximately $400,000.